Country clubs take an innovative approach amid uncertainty

In a time of great economic uncertainty, it is very easy for organizers to keep things simple. Given the steady stream of dismal news about the state of the nation’s finances, starting at the individual level all the way up to government, you would perhaps expect national motorsport clubs to release fairly standard 2023 fixtures without major surprises and perhaps plan to launch new series in wait.

Yet tough times also present opportunity, and by trying something different, the gamble could bring handsome rewards by setting yourself apart from the crowd. And so it is fascinating to assess some of the exciting developments for next year announced by the organizing clubs in recent weeks.

Some chose to stick to the well-trodden path and focus on the more popular venues – such as Donington Park, Silverstone and Brands Hatch – while others opted for something different. A great example of this is the Classic Sports Car Club. It always tries to keep its program up to date each year and, for 2023, is expected to return to smaller venues Mallory Park (for the first time in three years) and Croft (its last visited was in 2017), along with traditional landmarks.

“There are a lot of championships that have abandoned the smaller circuits, some just doing MSV circuits, as well as Silverstone,” says CSCC director David Smitheram. “As a club, we think it’s important to mix things up.”

Such an attitude is great: it not only gives members something new to look forward to every year, but also ensures that smaller venues are supported, which is vital to their survival. It’s an approach that doesn’t always pay off – as the club suffered from a few tiny grids when they first visited Knockhill last year – but it’s good to see they don’t just stick to the norm.

One of the standout features of the CSCC calendar, aside from late-season trips to Sebring and Daytona to celebrate its 20th anniversary and exciting plans for its July visit to Anglesey, is the February season opener at Silverstone. Yes, you read that right, February.

As well as adding several venues to its 2023 calendar, the Classic Sports Car Club will kick off in February at Silverstone

Photo by: Mick Walker

For many years, the club racing season was confined to a traditional mid-March to mid-November period, with virtually no events outside of this. There’s no question that the February date is a risk, given the possibility of snow or other bad weather, but it’s another example of trying something different.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, one of the few positives was the way it defied convention and forced changes to long-standing practices. It has effectively led to a temporary change to the traditional March-November calendar with the 750 Motor Club holding an event in mid-December in 2020, between blocks.

Despite the unusual time of year, it attracted an average of 28 cars across the eight grids. Yes, those numbers were slightly lower than during the rest of the year and it was at a time when people desperately wanted to race anytime, anywhere, but it shows that events outside the normal time window they can work.

In addition to the calendar’s creativity, financial volatility hasn’t stopped many organizers from launching new categories for next season. No more than the British Racing & Sports Car Club which, as well as attracting a plethora of existing series to its portfolio, is also launching new ones.

Another organizer with a revamped calendar is Scottish Motor Racing Club. Rather than its usual focus on Knockhill, it is expanding its away from home events of recent years by offering each of its categories a visit to Anglesey along with a trip or two to Kirkistown, Cadwell Park and Croft. Again, this was done to ‘provide our drivers with more variety’ and give them a mix of dates both at Knockhill and other venues.

In addition to the calendar’s creativity, financial volatility hasn’t stopped many organizers from launching new categories for next season. No more than the British Racing & Sports Car Club which, as well as attracting a plethora of existing series to its portfolio, is also launching new ones.

The electric single-seater offered in Formula Foundation-E is something unique to the world of club racing, although it remains to be seen whether the circuit’s drivers are already ready to adopt the alternative power. Its new Audi TT Cup Racing division has shown some promise, while its Evolution Trophy is an intriguing concept. This will house several new initiatives that the club intends to get off the ground, but they will all share a blueprint during their initial stage of development.

The BRSCC's Formula Foundation-E series will be a bold step towards electric racing on a national budget

The BRSCC’s Formula Foundation-E series will be a bold step towards electric racing on a national budget

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Given the challenging times, this seems like a very sensible approach and avoids the risk of the BRSCC overcommitting and buying more track time than necessary for classes that do not yet justify a standalone grid. Likewise, it could create some headaches if one of the ideas suddenly really takes off!

But one new series that seems a bit superfluous is the MotorSport Vision Trackdays Miata Trophy for the Mk1 and Mk3 models of the Mazda MX-5. There are already many places for these cars to race and launching another series for them risks diluting the pool and helping no one, exactly what needs to be avoided at a time like this.

We still don’t know the true impact on motorsport of the dark clouds gathering over the UK economy. But, given the uncertainty, it’s encouraging to see organizers still thinking outside the box and not just closing the hatches. After all, evolution may be the greatest survival tactic.

With BRSCC's Thriving MX-5 Supercup Series, MSVT's Miata Trophy Could Dilute the Pool

With BRSCC’s Thriving MX-5 Supercup Series, MSVT’s Miata Trophy Could Dilute the Pool

Photo by: Richard Styles

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